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Winning the 6th and 7th

This season we have seen many fine (used here loosely) examples of why the Sox have designed their offense around building up other teams' pitch counts while trying hard to get their pitchers deep into the game. The reason: very few teams ever have more than two pitchers they can rely on in the late innings to get more than one out. Last year, late in the year especially, the Sox were blessed to have Manny D. set up for Oki to give it to the indomitable Pabst.

This year, the math hasn't worked out quite so cleanly.

I'll talk about the why later. But the point I'm trying to make here is that in the major leagues, the way you win games is by winning the race to face the other team's bull pen.

With the exception of the old Reds with Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble, and Randy Myers, almost no team can consistently shut their opponent down for the last three innings of the game. So, you want two things:
  • Your starting pitcher must pitch to contact and go deep in the game. It is important that the Sox pitchers go into the seventh inning and often finish that. Otherwise, you have to rely too much on inconsistent arms with a slight lead.
  • Your lineup must wear down the opposing starter. Often the opposing starter is facing the Sox lineup in the 6th having already thrown around 100 pitches. That means a few very good things for the hitters: the pitcher is tired (mentally and physically) and the bullpen is getting ready - with it's 3rd or 4th best pitcher if the game is close.
The Sox thus need to get deeper into games with their starters. That will be helped when Dice-K is back and when Colon can go deeper. Unfortunately, Masterson seems to be on a bit of a tight leash. I'm ok with that, but it's not helpful on this front. Luckily, he seems to be rather efficient with his pitches, as you'd expect from a sinker baller.

Also, they need to continue to put together tough at bats up and down the order. It's helpful that even the backups are good at this and that the kids coming up from the minors have had this bred into them.

Oh, and the bullpen needs to pitch better. But the point here is that we can't really legitimately expect that.

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